Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatos

Can't have a turkey without Mashed Potatoes ... but these are good beyond just Thanksgiving! The roasted garlic and greek yogurt give normal spuds a boost. I like using a potato ricer to get fluffy, non-lumpy potatoes but a regular masher works too. Just make sure not to over stir, otherwise they can get heavy and gummy.

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
6 large potatoes, scrubbed and peeled
1 stick of butter
1 cup milk
2 tbsp roasted garlic
1/2 cup greek yogurt
1 tsp ground coriander

Place potatoes in a large pot, fill with water until just covering potatoes, bring to a boil and cook for 20-25 minutes. The potatoes should give easily when poked with a fork or knife. Drain and let cool slightly, returning to original pot.

Either use a masher or potato ricer, putting mashed potatoes back into the same pot. Over low heat, add butter, milk and garlic, continuing to stir until heated through. Stir in coriander and yogurt, serve.

If doing ahead, cook and mash and set aside until ready to add the remaining ingredients (should take about 10 minutes to bring all back up to temperature). 

Citrus Stuffed & Rubbed Roasted Turkey - Time for Thanksgiving!

Bringing a little Florida to my Minnesota Thanksgiving! Used citrus to make both the salt rub to put on the Turkey pre-cooking as well as for stuffing the cavity to infuse flavor while its roasting in the oven.

A few turkey tips:
- Buy a fresh bird if you can! It will be a little more expensive per pound but seeing you probably only roast one or two a year, go all out!
- If you opt for a frozen bird, make sure to plan ahead for thawing. Takes a few days in the refrigerator
- Don't be afraid of a higher oven temperature for the start of cooking.

Citrus Turkey
1 batch of Citrus Rub
Turkey, 14-16 lb thawed
1 stick of butter, room temperature
2 tbsp each of fresh chives and parsley, chopped
For Stuffing Turkey
2 lemons, quartered
2 oranges, quartered
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper
olive oil
Parsley stems leftover from the chopped parsley leaves
For Basting
3 tbsp OJ
3 tbsp Lemon Juice
1/4 cup olive oil

Up to 24 Hours Ahead but Atleast 3 hours: RUB YOUR BIRD!
3/4 of the rub (or more or less depending on coverage), rub all over the bird, massaging into skin. Cover and move to the refrigerator. When ready to cook, remove bird on hour before you want to put it in the oven.

Rinse rub off and pat dry, placing in a large roasting pan. Combine butter, herbs and remaining citrus rub in a small bowl. Using your hands, slowly separate the skin from the breast of the turkey, starting at the cavity opening and working backwards. When separated, fill with butter, rubbing into the meat under the skin until well coated.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Add turkey, cooking for 30 minutes. Add 2 cups of water to roasting pan (or turkey stock if you have it) and tent with tin foil. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and cook until done, about 3 hours. Baste turkey every 20-30 minutes with juice mixture. When cooked remove from oven and let sit for 30 minutes so you don't loose any of its juices when you cut.

Remove citrus, slice and serve!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Arugula Pesto

How many times have you bought that large clam shell of arugula at the grocery store thinking that you will make yourself a salad every night to go with dinner? If you haven't I need to go shopping with you. For one person it is not easy to get through before it goes bad. Especially if during the week you will have a least a couple dinners out for work or with friends.

Finding myself in a familiar place with my large batch arugula and getting ready to leave for the weekend, I came up with a quick and easy way to use and enjoy without throwing it into the trash ... Arugula Pesto!

Easy and quick to make, plus it keeps for longer than the life of the fresh arugula on its own. Use it with pasta like I did or as a topping for crostini, eggs, the list goes on.

No more wasted lettuce!

2 large handfuls of Arugula
1/3 cup of slivered almonds (or pine nuts if you prefer)
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
dash of crushed chili flakes (optional if you want some heat)

In a food processor (I use the handheld attachment pieces from my mixer) combine all the ingredients until pureed and combined. May need to add more olive oil if the pesto is very thick.

Toss with fresh pasta, use as a dipping sauce for goat cheese crostini, add to your eggs, use as a sandwich spread. Endless options!

Also you can easily freeze, just put into an ice cube tray, freeze until solid. Pop out the cubes and put in a resealable plastic bag. Frozen pesto is best when added to dishes like pasta or even in a braise to add a burst of herb flavor, not as great to use as a condiment...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

In need of a few last minute recipes for today? I have a few recipes from the Thanksgiving 2010 meal I prepared for 12, just click here!

Thank you for following my cooking adventures whether just the past few weeks or few years! Hope you have a wonderful day with family and friends celebrating Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Lemon, Orzo and Meatball Soup (It's that time of year!)

Now that the temperatures have started to fall and I have seen my first snowflakes (sadly a few weeks ago now) its time to start making more soup! 

When I first found this recipe in SL back in September I was not completely sold on the lemon combination but the pictures looked pretty good so I decided to give it a try (and also serve it to some friends to get a real opinion) ... Success! 

The lemon really brought the whole thing together, was just the right amount of acid to brighten the whole thing up. Tasted light and healthy but delicious and filling at the same time. This will definitely become one of my regular soup rotations throughout the year.

A few tips: Only cook orzo for 5 minutes before adding back meatballs, overcooked it absorbs too much liquid. Original recipe added 1 tsp of rosemary which I omitted

Thanks to my tasters (and photographers)!

Lemon Orzo Meatball Soup
(Southern Living October 2013)

1 lb ground chicken
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 teaspoons loosely packed lemon zest, divided
1 medium-size yellow onion, chopped
3 carrots, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
64 oz. chicken broth (homemade or store bought)
5 to 6 Tbsp. lemon juice
3/4 cup orzo pasta
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Combine ground chicken, egg, breadcrumbs, salt and 2 tsp. lemon zest in a bowl. Shape into 30 (1-inch) meatballs (about 1 level tablespoonful each). I use a small cookie dough scooper, easier and ensures you have a uniform size.

Sauté meatballs, in 2 batches a Dutch oven over medium heat 3 to 4 minutes or until browned. Remove using a slotted spoon. Place on a plate and set aside.

Sauté onion , carrots and garlic cloves with a little bit of olive oil in the same pot over medium-high heat 3 to 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in broth, lemon juice, and remaining 2 tsp. zest. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add orzo. Reduce heat to medium; simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.

Stir in meatballs; simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 to 7 minutes or until meatballs are thoroughly cooked. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top with cheese and parsley.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Penne Arrabbiata from The Herbfarm Cookbook -- Great weeknight dinner!

This is an easy weeknight dinner -- fast to make and delicious to eat. This is my second evening looking at recipes from the Herbfarm Cookbook where the focus is bringing fresh herbs into recipes to add a little extra flavor. I have made a similar type sauce before but the recipe called for adding rosemary which I never thought of before. It really balanced the spiciness of the tomatoes. I used dried where the recipe called for fresh, so I would use 1 tsp dried versus 1 tbsp of fresh. This is a pretty standard conversion, if you are not a huge fan of rosemary start with 1/2 tsp since it is one of the stronger herbs and add if needed. Still make sure to chop it up a little before adding. Enjoy! 

Pasta Arrabiata
(from The Herbfarm Cookbook by Jerry Traunfeld)

3 cloves garlic, minced
1 container of Pomi Chopped Tomatoes with their juice (if you can’t find it substitute with one 28 oz. can plum tomatoes chopped with juice, best to use a good brand of San Marzano
1/2 to 1 tsp. dried red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you want, I used ½ tsp)
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
3 tbsp fresh Greek oregano, coarsely chopped (or 1 tbsp dried)
¾ box dried penne
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a steady boil, adding a liberal amount of salt to flavor the water. When boiling add pasta and cook according to directions, usually 10-12 minutes.

When you are getting the water going, heat a splash of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until it begins to brown, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, red pepper, rosemary and 1/2 tsp. salt. Bring the sauce to a boil and cook uncovered at a steady, gentle boil until most of the liquid evaporates and the sauce is quite thick, about 15 minutes.. Stir in the parsley and oregano.

When pasta is cooked al dente, drain,  and add to sauce, tossing to coat evenly. Serve in bowls with sprinkle of Parmesan. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

This Week's Cookbook: The Herbfarm

 This Week's Cookbook Grab: The Herbfarm Cookbook by Jerry Traunfeld

As I try and get back and rediscover cooking, I have decided each week to pull a cookbook from my collection that I haven't looked at in a while to try and find more inspiration and get back to what I enjoy doing when I get home to relax. For a while I was so focused on creating new things I lost some of the comfort and healing (sounds silly but true) of following a recipe and seeing where it takes you. One day I will probably start making things again that I can't repeat but for now feel a little more grounded going with this approach. I have quite a collection of cookbooks though so it should still keep it pretty interesting!

The first one I grabbed for this experiment was The Herbfarm Cookbook by Jerry Traunfeld, who was the executive chef of the Herbfarm in Woodville, WA from 1990 to 2007 and a James Beard award winner. The Herbfarm is one of the pioneer restaurants focused on local food and should you find yourself in Seattle area is worth the effort and price to join them for one of their dinners. Remains to this day one of the best dining experiences I have had all around.

Recipes Attempted:
Mashed Potatoes with Toasted Coriander
Spicy Red Cabbage with Apple
Penne Arrabiata

Sunday Dinner Recipes

Sunday Family Dinners are always a great way to start the week. As I try and get back into cooking it has been a good time to try out some new recipes and catch up with good friends since my family is almost two thousand miles away. It ends up being a pretty mutually beneficial event -- people get dinner and I get someone to cook for!
This week went for a traditional roast chicken which complemented the cookbook I am focusing on for the first week of November. Roast chicken is a great main dish when you are trying out new side recipes -- goes in the oven early and you can work around that without having a million pots and pans going on the stove. Good way to focus your energy on those dishes that might be more hands on, like finely cutting apples into small cubes for the braised cabbage.
Overall was a great Sunday Dinner with recipes that would be great anytime!

Roasted Chicken
Mashed Potatoes with Toasted Coriander
Spicy Red Cabbage with Apple

Mashed Potatoes with Toasted Coriander (The Herbfarm Cookbook)

When I saw this recipe from the Herbfarm cookbook thought it was perfect. I brought back a lot of coriander from a recent trip to Cairo where I visited the spice markets in Khan El Khalili.

Coriander when toasted has a nutty flavor that with the roasted garlic makes a pretty good combination. These added flavors can probably give you some leeway to substitute lower fat dairy products, may not be as creamy but definitely will still have a delicious flavor if you are trying to reduce some of the fat.

Mashed Potatoes with Toasted Coriander
(from The Herbfarm Cookbook)

3 tbsp. dried coriander seeds
2 pounds of Yukon gold potatoes (peeled & cut into quarters)
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 up heavy cream
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 garlic bulb, roasted (30-45 minutes at a 425 degree oven)
3/4 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper

Add potatoes to a large pot, filing with cold water to cover potatoes by 1 1/2 inches. Bring to a boil over medium heat and continue to boil until easily pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast the coriander seeds over medium heat until they start to turn in color and smell fragrant. Be careful not to burn, took me two tries to get them right. When toasted grind them in a spice grinder until very fine.

When the potatoes are done, drain and return to saucepan. Add milk and cream, mashing or putting through a potato ricer if you have one. Whip potatoes with a heavy whisk, adding the coriander, butter, roasted garlic and salt. Continue to whip until butter is melted and incorporated. Taste and season with pepper and additional salt if needed. Serve immediately.


Spicy Red Cabbage with Apple (adapted from The Herbfarm Cookbook)

Love the color of this dish -- really brightens up the table and the flavors do a lot of the same. Get some of the same taste of the traditional braised cabbage you are used to but the heat of the chili flakes and tang of lime juice adds something. The recipe from the Herbfarm calls to add cilantro at the end, which I didn't have on hand. Even without was exactly the right balance for potatoes and heavy dishes. 
Spicy Red Cabbage with Apple and Cilantro
(from The Herbfarm Cookbook)

1 small head red cabbage (about 1 pound)
Splash of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into small dice
Freshly squeezed juice from 1 lime
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
3 green onions, thinly sliced
(Optional) 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

For the Cabbage: Cut the head of cabbage in half and quarters . Cutting out the cores in the bottom piece of the quarters. Slice the cabbage very thin, easiest to use a mandolin. Use the lowest setting to get the thinnest slices.
Heat oil in a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Add red pepper flakes, stirring to coat with olive oil. Add apples and cook for about 1 minute, stirring. Add red cabbage and toss to coat with oil.
Add the lime juice, sugar, and salt, cover the pan, and reduce the heat to low. Cook until the cabbage is tender, 5 to 10 minutes.Add the green onions and cilantro (if using) and toss together . Taste and season with additional salt or sugar if needed.


Roasted Chicken (Barefoot Contessa)

Took the Roast Chicken recipe from one of Ina Garten's recent cookbooks, "Barefoot Contessa - How Easy Is That" The story that went along in the cookbook says that anytime someone made this that she used to work with they got engaged, can't say that worked on my end, but my friends enjoyed it thoroughly so I think it is a pretty safe bet for any occasion.

Roast Chicken
(from Barefoot Contessa how easy is that Cookbook)
1 (4 to 5 pound) roasting chicken (giblets removed and discarded)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. smoked paprika
2 lemons
1 whole head garlic, cut in half crosswise
Olive oil
2 small onions onions, peeled and thickly sliced (good for mandolin)
1/2 cup dry white wine (sauvignon blanc if you have it)
1/2 cup chicken stock or water
1 tbsp. flour
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Pat the outside  of the chicken dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Cut the lemons in quarters, place 2 quarters in the chicken along with the garlic and reserve the rest of lemon. Brush the outside of the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle the chicken liberally with salt and pepper and paprika. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Place the chicken in a small (11 by 14-inch) roasting pan. (If the pan is too large, the onions will burn.) Place the reserved lemons and the sliced onions in a large bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Pour the mixture around the chicken in the pan.

Roast the chicken for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and a thigh or temperature registers 165 degrees.  Remove the chicken to a platter, cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Transfer lemons and onions to a small sauce pan on medium-high. Add wine and stir. Add the stock and sprinkle on the flour, stirring constantly for a minute, until the sauce thickens. Add any juices that collect under the chicken. Carve the chicken onto a platter and serve with the lemons, onions, and warm sauce

Friday, November 1, 2013

Key Lime Icebox Cake

I never can seem to have enough key lime desserts in my life. This Icebox cake is very easy to make and a crowd-pleaser. A little lighter than traditional key lime pie but all of the same flavors. 

You have to keep a close eye on the custard as it is cooking so you don't end up with scrambled eggs. When it starts to thicken it happens pretty quickly so don't walk away from the stove during this step. Otherwise it is pretty low active time to make and keeps very well for a few days in the freezer. Make the whipped cream fresh when you serve if you do freeze for a few days. 

Also I thought I was being clever when I didn't break each of the graham crackers into squares and in the end wasn't a smart move. Makes it a lot more difficult to cut into pieces so definitely use the squares not the rectangles. 

Key Lime Icebox Cake
featured in Southern Living August 2013

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large egg yolks
2 cups half-and-half
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons Key lime zest
1/2 cup fresh Key lime juice (can use regular lime juice and zest if you don't have key limes)
45 graham cracker squares
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Whisk together granulated sugar, cornstarch and salt in a heavy saucepan.
Whisk together egg yolks and half-and-half in a bowl.
Gradually whisk egg mixture into sugar mixture; bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. This is the base for the key lime custard. When it comes to a boil, continue to whisk constantly for one minute and then immediately remove from heat. It will thicken during this time but you don't want to overcook.

Whisk in butter and zest until butter melts. Gradually whisk in juice just until blended. Pour into a metal bowl, and place bowl on ice. Let stand, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes or until custard is cold and slightly thickened.

Meanwhile, line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square pan with plastic wrap, allowing 4 inches to extend over sides. Place 9 graham crackers, with sides touching, in a single layer in bottom of pan to form a large square. (Crackers will not completely cover bottom.)

Spoon about 3/4 cup cold custard over crackers; spread to edge of crackers. Repeat layers 3 times with crackers and remaining custard, ending with custard; top with remaining 9 crackers. Pull sides of plastic wrap tightly over cake; freeze in pan 8 hours.

Lift cake from pan, and place on a platter; discard plastic wrap. Cover loosely; let stand 1 hour.

Beat whipping cream at high speed with an electric mixer until foamy; gradually add powdered sugar, beating until soft peaks form. Spread on top of cake.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Little Peach Cakes - A Sweet Treat

Perfectly sized, perfectly sweet. I used peaches but the original recipe called for apricots. Use anything that is fresh and in season (plums are good for later in the summer season). These keep well in an air-tight container...

Little Peach Cakes (originally, apricot, Bon Appetit June 2013)
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1tsp finely grated lemon zest
1tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup  milk
2 peaches, halved, pitted, cut into 1/4-inch wedges
2 tbsp sraw sugar
Preheat oven to 350°. Coat muffin cups with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in another medium bowl, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg, lemon zest, and vanilla and beat until combined.
With mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients in 3 additions alternately with milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Divide batter among muffin cups (cups will be only 1/3 full) and smooth tops. Top with fruit slices and sprinkle with raw sugar.
Bake until cakes are golden and a tester inserted into the centers comes out clean, 20–25 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack; let pan cool 5 minutes. Transfer cakes to rack and let cool completely.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Key Lime Cheesecake Bars (No Baking Required)!

Having grown up in Florida, there is just something about the tanginess of key lime desserts that I love, especially in cheesecake form. This dessert was overall very easy to put together and was adapted from the original recipe I found which gives it a little more consistent tart flavor. Use bottled key lime juice instead of fresh, Nellie & Joe's Famous Key Lime Juice can be found in most stores or via amazon. They do take a few hours to set fully so make sure to plan ahead.

Key Lime Cheesecake Bars (adapted from Food Network Magazines)
For Crust:
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
8 tbsp semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 1/3 cups vanilla wafer cookies
2 tablespoons sugar

Line a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with foil, leaving an overhang. Put the butter and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring, until melted and smooth. Pulse the cookies with the sugar in a food processor until finely ground. With the motor running, pour in the warm chocolate mixture and process until combined. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan and refrigerate.
For Filling:
1/2 cup bottled Key lime juice
2 tsp unflavored gelatin powder
1/4 cup sugar
10oz reduced fat cream cheese, at room temperature
14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
8 tbsp semisweet chocolate, chopped

Warm key lime juice in a small saucepan over low heat; whisk in the gelatin and sugar until completely dissolved, remove from heat and cool slightly. Beat the cream cheese in a large bowl until smooth and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the sweetened condensed milk and beat until smooth. Beat in the gelatin mixture and vanilla. Spread in the prepared crust and refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours or overnight.

Melt the chocolate until smooth. Drizzle over the cheesecake and refrigerate until ready to serve. Remove from the pan using the foil handles and slice into bars.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Strawberry Lemonade Muffins

I tried this recipe from Southern Living (April 2012) last year and realized I used all-purpose instead of self-rising flour. The result was more hockey puck, less muffin. Seeing a pint of strawberries on the counter, I figured it was about time to try them again and was successful this time. The muffins are the right combination of sweet and tangy, and were light. I know they were good because my brother ate two within a five minute span and he can be discerning with food.

Strawberry Lemonade Muffins
Southern Living April 2012

2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
1 8oz. container reduced-fat sour cream
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tbsp lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups diced fresh strawberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine flour and 1 cup sugar in a large bowl, make a well in the center of the mixture.

Stir together sour cream, butter, lemon zest and juice, and eggs. Add to dry ingredients and stir until moistened. Fold in strawberries.

Spoon batter into lightly greased 12-cup muffin pans, filling three-fourths full. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup sugar over batter.

Bake at 400 degrees for 16 to 18 minutes, until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack for 1 minute, remove from pans to wire rack and cool 10 minutes.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Pluot and Cucumber Salad

Pluots are a hybrid fruit - a cross between a plum and apricot - and during the summer you can probably find them at the market. I happened to stumble across a variety that was medium-sized with a deep red fruit, tasting pretty sweet and almost like fruit punch. I used one to make a quick salad for dinner. When mixed with the tangy feta cheese and vinegar, the pluot loses some of its sweetness making it perfect to go along with a savory meal. And if you are coordinated enough, I am usually not, you can use the reserve pluot juice left on the cutting board to add to your dressing!

So keep you eyes peeled for Pluots!

Pluot & Cucumber Salad
makes 2-3 small servings
1 pluot, cut into wedges and pit removed
1/2 english cucumber thinly sliced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (or goat if you prefer)
3 basil leaves, roughly chopped
olive oil & white wine vinegar to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Combine pluot, cucumber, red onion, feta and basil in a small bowl. Add oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, tossing to combine. Serve immediately, better when the pluots don't get cold.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Panzanella - Use those tomatoes!

One of the best ways to use summer’s tomatoes and that stale loaf of bread you always seem to have!

Panzanella is a Tuscan salad based around bread and tomatoes that are abundant in the summertime. The earliest description of Panzanella goes back to 16th-century poet, Bronzino, who praised the salad (even though originally based on onions, tomatoes came later in the Italian kitchen). Originally the salad was a farmer’s dish, making use of the leftover bread and vegetables that were available, now you can find it on restaurant menus. It takes very little time to put this dish together and a lot of the steps can be completed while you are finishing another.

This is my recipe for the salad, after trying and tasting many different versions that included other vegetables (cucumbers and celery), different types of vinegar, bread that was soaked in water, you get the idea. I definitely recommend trying different versions too.
I like using heirloom variety tomatoes best as you won’t need to core / seed them as much as you would your regular beefsteak which can have a mealy core. Using different types and colors adds a nice touch as well. In addition to using ripe tomatoes make sure the bread you are using was good bread to begin with. I really like using sourdough for the tanginess (Zingerman’s Sourdough is worth the price), although any type of artisan style loaf will do. The rest of the ingredients are simple: onion, pepper, vinegar, salt, olive oil, basil and pepper.

I like to have the salad sit mixed together for 30 minutes if I can before serving to really make sure everything blends together. And remember a good olive oil and vinegar can go a long way!

For the Salad
1 Red Pepper
2 cups cubed bread
½ red onion
2 pounds Heirloom Tomatoes (mixed colors)
1 handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly torn

Roast Pepper & Toast Bread: Using grill or broiler roast the pepper, until skin is blistered. Remove and place in a heatproof bowl, covering with plastic wrap. Let sit for 10 minutes until cool and skin is easily removed with fingers. Chop pepper. While the pepper is roasting, pop in the bread cubes on a tray to toast them up as well.

Red Onion: Thinly slice and place in an ice-bath for 10-15 minutes to take some of the kick out

Tomatoes: Roughly chop tomatoes into bite-size pieces and toss in a bowl with a light dusting of salt, combining. Place the tomatoes in a colander over the bowl and let sit for at least 30 minutes. This draws some of the juice out which will be used in making the dressing later.

Combine the vegetables together with the fresh basil and bread and let sit.
For the Dressing
1 garlic clove, peeled and grated
Reserved juice from the tomatoes
Red Wine Vinegar
Olive Oil
1 tsp Capers (optional)

Using the reserve juice bowl from the tomatoes, add garlic, capers and vinegar / olive oil at a ratio of 1 to 3. I start with about 2 tbsp vinegar and 6 tbsp olive oil. Usually adding a little more olive oil depending on the amount of tomato juice. Season with salt and pepper, mix well and add to the salad, tossing well to combine.


Thursday, July 25, 2013


After a successful foray into smoker building, had to try it out by smoking a few pork butts. Have to cook low and slow for 12ish hours depending on the amount of meat and temperature. The smoker we built held nicely at around 230 degrees for almost the entire time which was ideal. Plan ahead and make the rub in an airtight container so when you have to wake up before the sunrise to rub and get your meat on you aren't playing around with spices.

Applied this rub all over the butts after first basting them with yellow mustard. The remaining rub can be mixed with one part apple juice and one part water to make a good mop sauce for your meat later in the cooking stages (don't want to mop too early becasue the sugars in the apple juice will burn and make more burnt ends then you really wanted!) The rub only takes a few minues to mix up.

This receipe was used for approximately 10 pounds of pork with enough left over to make into the mop sauce. For some reason we decided 2 butts would be appropriate. It was a lot of meat. General rule is 1/4 lb of meat per person and you should be fine if you have sides, etc.


1 cup paprika
1/4 cup garlic powder
1/4 cup onion powder
1 tbsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp celery salt
1 tbsp oregano
1 tsp dry mustard
3 tsp ground cirander
1 tsp allspice
1/4 cup ground cumin
2 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ground clove
1/4c brown sugar
1/4-1/2 cup salt

Mix all together and store in airtight container.

Can also use for a brine, overnight for the meat. 1 cup of seasoning, an extra 1/2 cup kosher salt. Stir together and add some water until mixed. Add meat to container, adding water to fill and cover.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Potato Salad for a BBQ

Who doesn't love a good BBQ with some excellent sides. I am always looking for new potato salad recipes and this is one I just threw together with ingredients I had on hand. Went really well with Pulled Pork Sliders!

Cabinet Potato Salad
2# Yukon Potatoes, peeled
1/2 cup Greek Non-Fat Yogurt
1/4 cup Low-Fat Mayonnaise
1/4 cup Dill Pickles, chopped plus 2tbsp juice (or 1/4 cup of dill relish)
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
3 tbsp. chopped red onion
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. white vinegar
2 tbsp. parsley
salt and pepper
1 hard boiled egg
2 tsp capers

Cover potatoes with water in a large pot, add salt and bring to a boil, cooking until tender. Takes about 10 minutes for cut potatoes and 20 minutes for whole. Add egg to boil as well (for 10 minutes). Cool potatoes and egg completely in ice bath, cut and peel when cool.

Combine remaining ingredients, fold into potatoes.

Mini Cherry Pies

A quick and easy treat that didn't take too much hands on time, besides rolling out the dough. With the mini-pie maker I bought over the summer, it was almost easier to bake mini pies instead of turning on the oven. Simple dough recipe and any type of filling you want.

Dough Recipe
2 1/2 cups flour
2 sticks unsalted butter (chilled and cut into small cubes)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
ice water (6 to 8 tbsp - depending on the consistency of the dough)

Combine flour, salt, and sugar in stand mixer with flat attachment. Mix on medium-low speed to combine. Add butter and continue to mix until the mixture starts to look like cornmeal. The butter pieces should be about pea size. Add water 1 Tbsp at a time, on low speed until mixture starts to come together and doesn't break apart when you pinch it.

Remove dough from mixer and place on a clean surface. Don't over-knead the dough, form into four small disks. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour or up to 24 hours.

Remove from refrigerator, let sit for 10 minutes to soften. Roll out with rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 of an inch thick. Using the cutters from the mini-pie baker, cut equal numbers of bottom and top crusts.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Lime Marinated Flank Steak

Make sure to leave yourself enough time to marinate, at least 3-4 hours before grilling! I topped with Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette but you can also do it with no topping or create your own!

Lime Marinated Flank Steak
zest of 1 lime
juice of 1 lime
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb flank steak, trimmed

Combine all ingredients through salt and pepper in a shallow dish or freezer bag, tossing to combine.

With a fork, poke flank steak on both sides. Add flank to marinade, cover and refrigerate a few hours.

Head grill to medium high heat, when ready, grill flank for 3-5 minutes per side depending on level of doneness desired and thickness of steak. My steak was a little over an inch in its largest point and cooked to medium, in total took about 12 minutes because my grill was a little under temperature to start.

Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette

I am fortunate since moving back to my parents for the summer to have their garden at my disposal. They have been growing tomatoes for a while, and have quite a few cherry tomato plants growing. Even if they are not fresh out of the garden, during the summer they are abundant and this is a great vinaigrette to make and keep on hand as it can go on almost anything -- eggs, bread, meat, vegetables (see my steak recipe for how it looks as a topping). Make sure to add chives just before serving, if you add them before storing they will become soggy.

Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette
Bon Appetit June 2013

1 pint cherry tomatoes
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
2 tbsp chopped fresh chives

Cut half of tomatoes in half. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes.

Add halved and whole tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to release juices. About 4-6 minutes. Mash some of the tomatoes with the back of spoon to release more juice.

Add red wine vinegar and remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or room temperature, add chives just before serving. If you do chill, bring to room temperature and stir in chives before serving.

Summer Squash Saute

As summer approaches, zucchini and summer squash become abundant. Here is a quick and easy recipe from Bon Appetit that is very tasty! Can adjust to make more. The salt is used to extract water from the vegetable making sure you don't have a soppy pan.

Summer Squash Saute
adapted from Bon Appetit June 2013 for 2

1 pound zucchini, julienned with a mandolin (or cut into matchsticks)
pinch of kosher salt
1 tsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
fresh ground black pepper

Place zucchini in colander, toss with salt and let sit. Squeeze excess water after at least 10 minutes, make sure not to rinse.

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, cook, stirring often for about 2 minutes, just until the garlic starts to brown. Add squash and cook, tossing occasionally for about 5 minutes until crisp yet tender. Fold in Parmesan, season with salt and pepper.